Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo

The Diocese of Buffalo is a Latin Church diocese of the Catholic Church headquartered in Buffalo, New York, United States. It is a suffragan diocese within the metropolitan province of the Archdiocese of New York. The Diocese of Buffalo includes eight counties in Western New York State. The Buffalo Diocese was established in 1847. From the Diocese of Buffalo, the Diocese of Rochester was created in 1868.

Diocese of Buffalo

Diœcesis Buffalensis
Saint joseph cathedral.jpg
St. Joseph Cathedral
Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.svg
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryWestern New York (Counties of Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Chautauqua, Wyoming, Cattaraugus, and Allegany, New York)
Ecclesiastical provinceArchdiocese of New York
Headquarters795 Main Street
Buffalo, New York
Area16,511 km2 (6,375 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics (including non-members)
(as of 2018)
727,125 (47.6%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedApril 23, 1847; 175 years ago (1847-04-23)
CathedralSt. Joseph Cathedral
Patron saintSt. Joseph[1]
Current leadership
BishopMichael William Fisher
Metropolitan ArchbishopTimothy M. Dolan
Bishops emeritusRichard Joseph Malone
Edward M. Grosz
Diocese of Buffalo map 1.png
St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, 2007
Religious Artifact, St. Columban Retreat Center, Derby, New York, 1998

Bishop Michael William Fisher is the current bishop of the diocese.

Range and populationEdit

The Diocese covers 6,455 square miles (16,720 km2) throughout the eight counties of Western New York. As of 2018, the diocese has a Catholic population of 725,125.[2] In the Diocese are 161 parishes, 15 high schools, 52 elementary schools, seven colleges and universities, one seminary, convents, and four hospitals.



The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo was established April 23, 1847. It was set apart from the great Diocese of New York and the See located at Buffalo on Lake Erie, the territory comprising nearly one-third of the State of New York.


In 1868, the Diocese of Rochester was formed from the eastern counties of the territory of the Diocese of Buffalo. In 1896, after Bishop Stephen Vincent Ryan's death, four more counties, including Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, and Tioga, were taken from the Diocese of Buffalo and added to the Rochester jurisdiction.

Reports of sex abuse and shakeup in leadershipEdit

On September 12, 2018, leaked church records showed that there were 106 clergy in the Diocese of Buffalo who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, far more than a list of 42 which had been released by the Diocese in March of the year.[3] Numerous former Bishops and former Bishop Richard J. Malone, have been accused of shielding some of these "predator priests," as well as at least one nun, from potential prosecution and transferring some to other parishes to avoid scrutiny.[4][5] Malone, who once served as an Auxiliary Bishop to the Archdiocese of Boston under the notorious Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law,[6] was also revealed in August 2018 to have returned at least one "predator priest" to active ministry.[7] A few clergy on the list who were still active in ministry have been suspended.[8][9][10] On September 28, Malone named Steven L. Halter, a former agent in the FBI's Buffalo Division who took part in the investigations of the 9/11 World Trade Center and USS Cole attacks committed by the Islamic terrorist organization Al Qaeda and who served as senior accounting officer at Empire of America Federal Savings Bank, Buffalo beforehand, director of the Diocese's newly created Office of Personal Responsibility, which handles sex abuse complaints in the Diocese.[11][12]

On 28 May 2019, it was announced that the Diocese of Buffalo's compensation program had by that point paid $17.5 million to 106 childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse, while rejecting 135 applicants it deemed ineligible for its voluntary compensation program.[13] In June 2019, however, it was announced that plaintiff James Bottlinger had declined a $650,000 offer to settle his sex-abuse lawsuit against the Diocese of Buffalo and will continue to pursue his lawsuit in court.[14][15][16] Bottlinger has also implicated former Erie, Pennsylvania Bishop Donald Trautman of protecting his abuser Rev. Michael Freeman from potential prosecution when Trautman served as the second-highest ranking official in the Diocese of Buffalo in the 1980s.[14][15][16] Bottlinger is using the state of New York's new Child Victims Act to sue the Diocese of Buffalo.[16] Aside from Bottlinger, who stated that Freeman started abusing him in 1984,[16] two other men accused Freeman of molesting them when they were boys as well.[15] Complaints against Freeman also surfaced by 1981.[16] However, Freeman died in 2010.[16]

In September 2019, it was reported that under the Child Victims Act, the law firms of Steve Boyd and Jeff Anderson & Associates were able to file 100 different sex abuse lawsuits against the Diocese of Buffalo.[17] 83 of these lawsuits were filed when the law went into effect on August 14, 2019.[17] Leaked documents and audio recordings also revealed that the Diocese was hiding money via its charities amid plans to file for bankruptcy due to the financial burden created by 152 sex abuse lawsuits.[18] About 40 percent of donations to the Diocese of Buffalo's charities were diverted to a secret foundation known as "The Bishop's Fund for the Faith."[18] The foundation was also included in the Diocese of Buffalo's budget as a corporate entity so it could be used to prevent the Diocese from being vulnerable to payments stemming from lawsuits and bankruptcy.[18] On 24 September 2019, following the start of a criminal investigation brought against Diocese priest Rev. Jeffrey Novak,[19][20] the Diocese published an Adult Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures and a new Code of Pastoral Conduct for Clergy.[20]

Undisclosed financial problems also forced the Diocese to close and transfer its credit card account effective 27 September 2019.[21] Though the Diocese's communications director denied that the closure of the credit card account was related to the sex abuse scandals, it was revealed that the number of people suing the Diocese had grown to 168 by 25 September.[21] On 2 October 2019, it was revealed that the number of accused clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo had grown to 178 and that the Diocese had now paid a six figure settlement to a victim of one of the newly named clergy, the now deceased Fr. Maurus Schenck, for sex abuse committed at St. Mary's Parish in Dunkirk when the unnamed victim was a 13-year old boy in 1965.[22]

On 20 October 2019, revelations surfaced that the Diocese of Buffalo removed Rev. Norbert F. Orsolits from his parish in South Buffalo in 1968 after he was accused of sexually abusing children.[23] The Diocese was also accused of doing so in order to cover up sex abuse allegations against him.[23] One of the alleged victims filed a lawsuit against the Diocese for abuse he alleged was committed by Orsolits.[24] The alleged victim also accused Orsolits' replacement William F. J. White of sexually abusing him as well.[24] On 31 October 2019, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who the Congregation of Bishops assigned on 3 October 2019 to investigate the Diocese,[25][26] completed his investigation of the Diocese of Buffalo's sex abuse scandal.[27][26] DiMarzio based the details of his investigation from interviews he had with 80 local clergy and people who were revealed to be "pay persons."[28]

Pope Francis accepted Malone's resignation on December 4, 2019.[29][30] He named Albany's Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger the apostolic administrator of the Diocese, with authority to manage its affairs pending the appointment of a successor to Malone.[29][31] 60 Minutes Overtime reported that Malone's resignation was linked to leaked sex abuse documents which were reported by 60 Minutes journalist Bill Whitaker in 2018.[32] On December 10, Malone gave his first interview since his resignation, where he stated to WIVB that while he did not want to submit his resignation until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, he also agreed to submit an early resignation to Pope Francis so the Diocese of Buffalo could "move forward."[33]

On May 4, 2020, Diocese of Buffalo filed an adversary motion to freeze the lawsuits, stating that it was no longer financially stable enough to pay future sex abuse settlements if the lawsuits continued.[34][35] The same day, the Diocese of Buffalo also appointed Sister Mary McCarrick, who had previously served as director of the Diocese's charities and received praise in 2018 for her handling of families dealing with sex abuse,[36][37] as the Diocese's first Chief Operating Officer (COO).[38]

On May 8, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the statute of limitations deadline to file sex abuse lawsuits in the state of New York, which was originally set for August 14, 2020, to January 14, 2021.[39]

Bankruptcy and termination of payment and financial aid for accused clergyEdit

On February 28, 2020, the Diocese officially filed for bankruptcy as a result of the numerous sexual abuse lawsuits.[40] This comes weeks after the Diocese announced that they will be ceasing operations at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY.[41] On April 28, 2020, Scharfenberger and Diocese spokesman Greg Tucker revealed that as part of the bankruptcy agreement, the Diocese of Buffalo would cease to provide regular payment and other financial support - which includes retirement payments, health care, dental care and car insurance - to 23 Diocese priests effective May 1, 2020.[42][43] All 23 priests are currently suspended due to substantial sex abuse allegations which were brought against them as well.[42][43] On May 6, 2020, months after his resignation, it was revealed that Malone secretly removed accused priest Fr. Paul Salemi from the Diocese of Buffalo in 2012, but then allowed the Diocese to keep Salemi "on the diocesan payroll" after Salemi moved to the South as well.[44] No effort was also made to have Salemi laicized either.[44] However, payment to Salemi ended on May 1, 2020, as he was among the 23 accused clergy who were suspended by the Diocese of Buffalo.[44]

State investigation and lawsuitEdit

On November 23, 2020, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Buffalo, retired Bishop Richard J. Malone, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz charging misuse of funds to cover up alleged sex abuse on the part of more than two dozen priests.[45] At the same time, her office released a 218-page report detailing the results of a two-year investigation into all the parties named in the lawsuit.[45]


The Diocese of Buffalo includes the following eight counties in Western New York State:[2]

  • Allegany
  • Cattaraugus
  • Chautauqua
  • Erie
  • Genesee
  • Niagara
  • Orleans
  • Wyoming


The lists of bishops and auxiliary bishops of the diocese and their years of service, followed by other priests of this diocese who became bishops:

Bishops of BuffaloEdit

  1. John Timon, C.M. (1847–1867)
  2. Stephen V. Ryan, C.M. (1868–1896)
  3. James Edward Quigley (1896–1903), appointed Archbishop of Chicago
  4. Charles H. Colton (1903–1915)
  5. Dennis Joseph Dougherty (1915–1918), appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia (elevated to Cardinal in 1921)
  6. William Turner (1919–1936)
  7. John Aloysius Duffy (1937–1944)
  8. John Francis O'Hara, C.S.C. (1945–1951), appointed Archbishop of Philadelphia (elevated to Cardinal in 1958)
  9. Joseph Aloysius Burke (1952–1962)
  10. James Aloysius McNulty (1963–1972)
  11. Edward Dennis Head (1973–1995)
  12. Henry Joseph Mansell (1995–2003), appointed Archbishop of Hartford
  13. Edward Urban Kmiec (2004–2012)
  14. Richard Joseph Malone (2012–2019)
  15. Michael William Fisher (2021–present)

Former auxiliary bishopsEdit

Other priests of this diocese who became bishopsEdit

Major ministriesEdit

  • Campus Ministries
  • Catholic Charities
  • Catholic Health System
  • Holy Name Society
  • St. Vincent de Paul Society
  • Office of Pro-Life Ministries

Hospitals and affiliatesEdit

  • Bertrand Chaffee Hospital, Springville[47]
  • Catholic Medical Partners, Buffalo[48]
  • Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Kenmore[49]
  • Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Buffalo[50]
  • Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Health Center, Lewiston[51]
  • Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo
  • Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus, Cheektowaga[50]


Christ the King SeminaryEdit

The seminary was founded in 1857 as part of the St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, New York. In 1950, St. Bonaventure became a University, which included a School on Theology. In 1974, it moved to a 132-acre campus campus at East Aurora.[52] It ceased operations at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.[41]


Colleges and universitiesEdit

High schoolsEdit

Elementary schoolsEdit

  • Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls
  • Catholic Academy of West Buffalo, Buffalo
  • Christ the King School, Snyder
  • DeSales Catholic School, Lockport
  • Immaculate Conception School, East Aurora
  • Immaculate Conception School of Allegany County, Wellsville
  • Mary Queen of Angels Regional School, Cheektowaga
  • Nardin Academy Elementary and Montessori Divisions, Buffalo
  • NativityMiguel Middle School of Buffalo, Buffalo
  • Nativity of our Lord School, Orchard Park
  • Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School, Clarence
  • Niagara Catholic Junior High School, Niagara Falls
  • Northern Chautauqua Catholic School, Dunkirk
  • Our Lady of Black Rock School, Buffalo
  • Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School, Depew
  • Our Lady of Victory School, Lackawanna
  • Queen of Heaven School, West Seneca
  • Sacred Heart Villa School, Lewiston
  • South Buffalo Catholic School - Notre Dame Academy, Buffalo
  • Southern Tier Catholic School, Olean
  • Southtowns Catholic School, Lake View
  • SS. Peter and Paul School, Hamburg
  • SS. Peter and Paul School, Williamsville
  • St. Aloysius Regional School, Springville
  • St. Amelia School, Tonawanda
  • St. Andrew's Country Day School, Kenmore
  • St. Benedict School, Amherst
  • St. Christopher School, Tonawanda
  • St. Gregory the Great School, Williamsville
  • St. John the Baptist School, Alden
  • St. John the Baptist School, Kenmore
  • St. John Vianney School, Orchard Park
  • St. Joseph School, Batavia
  • St. Joseph University School, Buffalo
  • St. Mark School, Buffalo
  • St. Mary's Elementary School, Lancaster
  • St. Mary's School, Swormville
  • St. Peter School, Lewiston
  • St. Stephen School, Grand Island
  • Stella Niagara Education Park, Stella Niagara

School restructuringEdit

In 2005, Bishop Edward Kmiec announced that the Diocese would begin a school restructuring effort as part of the "Journey of Faith and Grace Campaign."[55] In 2007, 14 Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese closed. The closures, alphabetically by city, included Most Precious Blood, Angola; Genesee-Wyoming Catholic, Attica; St. Agnes, St. Bernard, and St. Rose of Lima, Buffalo; Infant of Prague, St. Josaphat, Kolbe Catholic, Resurrection, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Cheektowaga; St. Barnabas, Depew; St. Hyacinth, Dunkirk; Blessed Sacrament, Kenmore; and St. Edmund, Tonawanda. The school closures caused job losses to 158 full-time and 49 part-time employees. More than 1,410 students were negatively affected by the school closures in 2007, and were required to enroll in other educational programs outside of these schools.[56] In the five years immediately preceding the school closures, many families had already begun removing their children from Catholic schools in the diocese due to the instability of the schools, and concerns about not desiring their children to be enrolled in schools in which there was little or no future.

Regarding the 14 school closures in 2007, Bishop Kmiec stated in a February 2007 article written by Mark Ciemcioch in the Western New York Catholic:

This restructuring is necessary to respond to changing demographics, population and economic realities in Western New York; ... this is the most difficult decision I've ever made [while] being a bishop for 24 years.[56]

While the average cost of teaching one student in the 14 schools in 2007 was $4,738, the average tuition cost for the student was $1,525. Therefore, the debt of those schools' parishes averaged $224,160, and totaled more than $3.3 million altogether. Secretary of the Department of Catholic Education Denise McKenzie stated that the deficit can, therefore, lead to a significant deficit in the schools and associated parishes even prior to the beginning of each school year. The Diocese of Buffalo contributed millions of dollars to support schools whose parishes used up monies to subsidize their schools. In early 2007 alone, the Diocese was operating with a $2.1 million deficit, in part, due to the subsidies provided to schools and parishes.[56][57]

Cheektowaga, the area hardest-hit by the school closures with five schools lost in 2007, experienced great demographic changes in recent years. The area was once heavily Catholic, though the majority of the population of older adults has been replaced by those who are younger and non-Catholic. Younger couples have moved to the area, purchasing starter homes, and have moved out of the area when they begin having children, causing a decline in enrollments in the city's Catholic schools, particularly in kindergarten classes. The dramatic change has resulted in drastically reduced enrollments, for example in the Infant of Prague School that had 1,120 students in 1960, and had only 117 enrolled students in 2007. St. Barnabas School in Depew – one of the schools that closed in 2007 – had only 57 students enrolled that year, making it less than minimally viable per Msgr. John Madsen.[56][58]


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  58. ^ Buechi, P.J. (February 2007). "Cheektowaga area hardest hit by school closings". Western New York Catholic. Buffalo, NY.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 42°54′17″N 78°50′58″W / 42.90472°N 78.84944°W / 42.90472; -78.84944